CGIAR leads communication-for-research uptake (ResUp) training at Nairobi symposium

Dr Dennis Garrity shares his pitching experience with participants.  Photo by Esther Kimani/ICRAF

Dr Dennis Garrity shares his pitching experience with participants. Photo by Esther Kimani/ICRAF

How do you explain your research work, share your opinion and give recommendations to an important audience so that you can make a difference and get others, including policymakers, to take up your research?

These were some of the ‘research uptake’ issues addressed at a ResUp Meet Up Symposium and Training Exchange held 9-12 Feb 2015 in Nairobi to explore emerging issues and advance skills and practices in research uptake.

A CGIAR-led half-day training session on ‘key messaging and pitching for impact and influencing decision-makers to take up research’ was held on the last day of the training exchange.

Juliet Braslow of the the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), Daisy Ouya of the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) and Muthoni Njiru of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), organised and facilitated the workshop. Staff from CGIAR centres ICRAF, CIAT, ILRI, ICRISAT and CIP, joined the 40-odd training participants, and helped with reporting and logistics.

The day started with a keynote from Dennis Garrity, a senior fellow at ICRAF, on the purpose of pitching, its importance and benefits and examples of different pitching experiences. He identified the following simple tips, equating them to ‘the art of seduction’.

  1. Plan your talking points – talk about investments instead of research. Aim to integrate your objectives with those of your audience to provide a beneficial interaction.
  2. Build relationships – being too familiar with someone who you have not met before is not advisable. Know your audience and what they are looking for. Do not bombard them with information; one-pagers are more than enough to get the ball rolling.
  3. Practice – research shows that a higher percentage of successful persuasion depends on the use of non-verbal cues. Have an opening, a middle and a closing with an ‘ask’ that is not overly ambitious. For example, ask to have a meeting to discuss further and not a million dollars to build a school.
Participants plan a pitch. Photo by Daisy Ouya/ICRAF

Participants plan a pitch. Photo by Daisy Ouya/ICRAF

The keynote was followed by an interactive session on the ‘good, bad and ugly’ where participants watched trainers Juliet Braslow (CIAT) and Daisy Ouya (ICRAF) role-play two types of pitches, a good pitch and bad pitch. The aim of this session was to help participants identify the dos and don’ts of messaging and delivery.

Groups of participants then developed pitches to deliver in a variation of the ‘Dragon’s Den’, a format loosely based on a popular TV series where entrepreneurs pitch their business ideas to a group of investors. This exercise encouraged participants to build their capacity in communicating research, key messages and recommendations effectively. They walked away with a better understanding of how to generate a short message summary of their work and how to clarify what they are asking of their listener.

The demand for this kind of training is clear! The training room was packed full of 40 participants representing a wide range of research and development organizations who found the workshop extremely useful, with many saying it exceeded their expectations. Another common survey response was that the training should have been held over a full day.

Read full story, including do’s and don’ts of pitching, here.

An overview the ResUp conference discussions can be found on the ResUp Storify page.


Story by Muthoni Njiru, Daisy Ouya, Juliet Braslow and Sara Quinn.'

Daisy Ouya

Daisy Ouya is a science writer and communications specialist with the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF). Over the past 15 years she has been packaging and disseminating scientific knowledge in the fields of entomology, agriculture, health, HIV/AIDS research, and marine science. Daisy is a Board-certified Editor in the Life Sciences ( and has a Masters’ degree in chemistry from the University of Connecticut, USA. Her BSc is from the University of Nairobi in her native Kenya. She has worked as a journal editor, science writer, publisher, and communications strategist with various organizations. She joined ICRAF in July 2012. Twitter: @daisyouya

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